Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

April 18, 2007

Welfare For Harems

by Doug Mataconis

In England, polygamous husbands can claim extra state benefits for their harem, even though bigamy is illegal:

Polygamous husbands settling in Britain with multiple wives can claim extra benefits for their “harems” even though bigamy is a crime in the UK, it has emerged.

Opposition MPs are demanding an urgent change in the law, claiming that the Government is recognising and rewarding a custom which has no legal status and which is “alien” to this country’s cultural traditions.

Officials said yesterday a review was now under way into whether the state should continue to pay out income support, jobseeker’s allowance and housing and council tax benefits to ‘extra’ spouses.

Islamic law allows a man to take up to four wives, providing he can provide for them fairly and equally. But British law only ever recognises one spouse, while bigamy is punishable by up to seven years in jail.

However, if a husband and his wives arrive and settle in Britain having wed in a country where polygamy is legal, then the UK benefits system recognises his extra wives as dependents and pays them accordingly.

Now, personally, I don’t care if a man has one wife, twenty wives, or no wives. As long as it’s a consensual relationship, it’s none of my business. There is, though, a certain level of absurdity in the idea that a polygamist can claim extra benefits for his additional wives even when the practice itself is illegal.

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